Movies like The Doom Generation and The Living End have established Gregg Araki as a left-field indie helmer with little interest in being accepted by the mainstream. The pattern continues with Mysterious Skin, an unsettling story about the effect of childhood sexual abuse on two boys. What's disturbing is the director's soft-focus treatment of this vile taboo and his dangerous suggestion that for every traumatised victim there's a willing one. Not even strong performances can save this pretentious and rather repellent melodrama.
When he was eight, Brian Lackey (Thunderbirds' Brady Corbet) woke up underneath his house with a nosebleed and no memory of the previous five hours. Growing up a bed-wetting neurotic, he's convinced he was abducted by aliens. But a dark secret links him to Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young gay hustler who plies his trade on the mean streets of New York. It's a secret that has something to do with their high-school sports coach (Bill Sage), a genial fellow who was too friendly for comfort...
"ROMANTICISES THE HERO'S QUEST FOR TRUTH"
Unlike The Woodsman, which dealt maturely and unflinchingly with a sex offender struggling to reform, Mysterious Skin romanticises its hero's quest for the truth, suggesting a link between paedophilia and homosexuality and even trying to redeem the boys' seducer. While there is some impressive work here, not least from Elisabeth Shue as Neil's tactile mother and Michelle Trachtenburg as his kooky pal, the only thing Mysterious Skin will do is make yours crawl.